The Colorado parents accused of the “balloon boy” hoax are to plead guilty, their lawyer says.
Attorney David Lane said in a statement obtained by AFP that Richard and Mayumi Heene would enter guilty pleas on Friday in order to prevent the deportation of Japanese national Mayumi.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, mother-of-three Mayumi will plead guilty to false reporting to authorities, a misdemeanor offense which stipulates a period of probation.
Richard Heene will plead guilty to attempting to influence a public servant, a felony, with a stipulated sentence of probation, according to the statement.
The Heenes were at the center of an international media frenzy last month after they reported that their six-year-old son Falcon had accidentally floated away on a home-made air balloon shaped like a flying saucer.
After a massive multi-agency search, the child was later discovered hiding at home. Police later said the incident had been a hoax designed by the Heenes to help them land a reality television show.
Family lawyer David Lane said authorities had demanded that Richard “fall on his sword” and admit to a more serious felony plea.
Lane said a felony conviction for Mayumi would have resulted in her deportation because she is a Japanese national.
According to affidavits released last month, Mayumi had confessed that she and her husband “lied to authorities” as part of an elaborate hoax.
However Lane said however that under the law Mayumi’s statements could not have been used against her husband, setting up the possibility that she could have been convicted and deported while her husband may have been acquitted.
“Mayumi could have possibly ended up being deported and Richard could have proceeded to trial and had a good chance at an acquittal,” the statement said.
“This however would have put the family at grave risk of seeing a loving, caring, compassionate wife and mother ripped from the family and deported. That was not an acceptable risk, thus these pleas.
“It is supremely ironic that law enforcement has expressed such grave concern to the welfare of the children, but it was ultimately the threat of taking the children’s mother from the family and deporting her to Japan which fueled this deal,” Lane added.
The Heenes are to enter their guilty pleas at a court hearing on Friday.
The statement made no mention of whether the family would be required to pay financial restitution for the costs of the rescue operation for Falcon Heene.